theōria Physikē in the Thought of St. Maximos the Confessor
Nietzsche, and following him Lynn White Jr., argued that what Weber would call the “disenchantment” of nature allegedly effected by Christianity has been deleterious to the earth. Yet Nietzsche’s purported fidelity to the earth, and refusal of transcendence, entails not a liberation of nature, but its subjugation and domination. Moreover, ancient Christianity had in fact re-enchanted the earth at the very time that paganism had already become empty. Indeed, the Russian philosopher Florensky argued that it was Christianity that first gave rise to the “love of creation” which today we take for granted. This is especially evident in the practice of thēoria physikē or the “contemplation of nature” in Patristic figures such as Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Evagrios, attainting its full significance in Maximos the Confessor, for whom the “seeing” (and heeding) of the divine in nature signals a return to the lost paradise of divine presence in nature.
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